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Hague to Iran: Back Your Statements with Action

The international community is waiting for "concrete steps" by Iran, says British Foreign Secretary after meeting Iranian counterpart.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 9/24/2013, 5:12 AM

British Foreign Secretary William Hague
British Foreign Secretary William Hague
Israel news photo: Flash 90

The international community is waiting for "concrete steps" by Iran before moving to improve relations with the country's new government, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Monday, according to AFP.

Speaking after meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Hague welcomed conciliatory statements by the new government and said moves could be made to end a suspension in ties between the two countries.

The ties were suspended in November of 2011, when Britain ordered the closure of the Iranian embassy in London, and told the Iranian ambassador and his staff they have 48 hours to leave the country.

The move came after a violent mob stormed through the British Embassy in Tehran, smashing windows and hurling firebombs three days after the Tehran government downgraded diplomatic ties with Britain and gave the UK ambassador three days to leave Iran.

Hague said on Monday that he and Zarif had discussed Iran's contested nuclear program, the Syria conflict and signals coming from President Hassan Rouhani that he wants better relations with the West.

Britain "does not seek a confrontational relationship with Iran, as I explained to the foreign minister, and we are open to better relations," Hague told reporters, according to AFP.

"The time is now right for those statements to be matched by concrete steps by Iran to address the international community's concerns about Iran's intentions. And if such steps are taken then I believe a more constructive relationship can be created between us," he added.

"Of course we urge them firmly down that path," Hague said. "We will be ready to reciprocate in many ways."

Hague said Iran had to revive talks with Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States over its suspect nuclear program, as well as on bilateral ties.

He called on Iran to "play a constructive role" in the Syria conflict by ending its support for President Bashar Al-Assad, supporting a Syria peace accord that the United Nations is trying to broker and to improve its own human rights.

Hague said the two ministers had agreed bilateral relations should be improved on a "step-by-step" basis.

"I said to Mr. Zarif how damaging it was, of course, to our relations when our embassy compounds were overrun, when our staff were mistreated, the Vienna convention flouted, in November 2011," Hague said.

Hague added that that he and Zarif "have now asked our officials to do further work" on improving ties.

He stressed however that a British embassy could only reopen if it could function "without the harassment and without the difficulties that were placed in the way of it before."

Hague’s meeting with Zarif comes several days before a meeting between the Iranian minister and the six major powers that are negotiating to contain Iran's nuclear policy. The meeting on Thursday will be attended by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and will be the highest-level talks between the United States and Iran since the 1979 revolution.

U.S. President Barack Obama has responded to Rouhani’s recent moderate remarks by exchanging letters with him. Obama wrote Rouhani that the United States is ready to resolve its nuclear dispute with Iran in a way that allows Tehran to show it is not trying to build weapons.